Love + Action
We are newcomers to this land.
Unless you’re Lenape.
Some of us came here in search of education, opportunity.
Some to escape. War. Oppression. Violence.
Some in chains.
My parents left war-torn Korea in the 1950s, to seek education and to flee trauma. They landed in Jim Crow Atlanta. Then raised their children in all-white Ohio. Outside our home was racism. Inside our home, the war continued.
The past never truly leaves us. Global events reawaken our ghosts.
To quote the author bell hooks:
“Everywhere we learn that love is important, and yet we are bombarded by its failure….This bleak picture in no way alters the nature of our longing. We still hope that love will prevail. We still believe in love’s promise.”
CACF believes in love and action. “Our vision is for all children and families including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in New York to be safe, healthy, and able to reach their full potential in life.”
During COVID, I spoke about the college admissions process with a group of Asian parents. One woman asked in a very soft voice, “I am afraid of losing my son. All I know how to do is to push and push. The more I push, the more distant he becomes. What can I do?”
She made me think of my mom. Like her, my mom did everything for me that she knew how to do. And in that process, she lost me.
So I said to her, “The hard thing about America is there is no clear path. But there’s also freedom in that. You can do both, to have love and to find the right path for him.”
Tonight, we’re here to celebrate Love + Action. We’re celebrating two remarkable Asians who have lived the possibility of different paths. June Kwan, who set her son Daniel on a path to the highest levels in creativity. Preet Bharara, who forged a pioneering path to the highest levels in public service.
CACF’s vision is “optimistic, strategic and necessary.” Our mission is to advocate for equity and opportunity for marginalized AAPI children and families.
Why equity? The model minority is a myth. Our communities are among the poorest in New York. We may be 11% of the state’s population but we receive less than 2% of public funding. Imagine our needs. And our opportunities.
Our success depends on our champions in New York State and New York City. Legislators and Council Members, please stand up! Over the years, our partners in government have championed major legislative and budgetary wins for our communities, including passing data disaggregation laws in both NY City and State! And you have helped champion almost $75 Million for AAPI-serving community groups over the past 3 years. To our elected Champions, thank you!
Our coalition depends on our members, who serve hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Coalition members, please stand up! Our successes grow our coalition. Which grows our impact. Which grows our coalition. It’s a virtuous cycle. To our Coalition members, thank you!
Our organization depends on our Board and Advisors. Board members, please stand up! 6 new members have energized a Board that’s now 18-members-strong. Advisors, please stand up! We have new expert partnerships in legal, strategy, gala, public relations, and government relations. To our Board and Advisors, thank you!
Of course, all this is only possible thanks to our team, under the capable leadership of Co-Executive Directors Anita Gundanna and Vanessa Leung. Team, please stand up! Just two years ago, CACF had a $3 million budget. This year it will be nearly $10 million. And next year, over $20 million. To CACF’s leadership and team, thank you!
We couldn’t hold this event without you. Thank you. I want to give special recognition to our Ally sponsors: June Kwan, Preet Bharara, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Ong Family Foundation, Red Helicopter, Cleary Gottlieb, Davis, Polk, Mila Atmos, Lily Fan, Cynthia Solis Yi and Kenneth Yi.
This event will raise over $300,000 in critical funds to help CACF advance our mission. And we will be counting on your generosity to raise even more over the course of this evening.
I’m thrilled to introduce my friend and fellow CACF Board member James Rhee. James is a renowned TED Talk speaker, Howard University Johnson Chair of Entrepreneurship, New York Urban League Frederick Douglass Awardee, Council of Korean American Trailblazer honoree, and, wait there’s more, author of the forthcoming HarperCollins book RED HELICOPTER: LEAD CHANGE WITH KINDNESS (AND A LITTLE MATH).